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Poverty Remains an Unsolved Problem for West African Households that Live on Cocoa Earnings

Shiploads of cocoa move from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to Europe every year, giving life to a global $130 billion chocolate industry. But the west African farmers at the heart of this value chain have remained extremely poor over time. Some lawmakers in the European Union are now joining presidents of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in trying to change that imbalance. “We urge the Commission to rapidly engage in formal negotiations with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana with the aim of reaching an Economic Pact for Sustainable Cocoa,” a group of EU lawmakers said in an April letter. One study last year said that between 30 and 58% of cocoa producing households in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana earn a gross income below the World Bank’s extreme poverty line of $1.90 a day. More than 70% do not earn a living income. Between 2008 and 2013, child laborers (pdf) in the Ivorian cocoa industry were said to increase by almost 400,000. The reported push by EU lawmakers expresses optimism that a solution can be found to achieve a living income. The EU pledged €25 million ($26 million) for Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) schemes relating to cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Cameroon last year. Chocolate giants such as Nestlé, and Mondelez, the Cadbury maker, have also floated so-called sustainability programs.